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Time to kill off Doha

26 November 2009, Comment is Free

Pascal Lamy is wrong: the Doha round of talks offers nothing to the world's poorest countries. The WTO has failed to deliver

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TUC Women’s Committee steps up for Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops

22 November 2009, Latest news

We've built up a national profile for our campaign with thousands of backers from across the UK - and the globe. And we've just gained some more, as the TUC Women's Committee gave us its endorsement.

The TUC Women's Committee is made up of members elected at the annual TUC Women's Conference as well as General Council members. The Committee advises the TUC General Council, and campaigns for women's equality in the UK and overseas.

Gender discrimination was a focus area of our Fashion Victims line of research, which underpins the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign. In Bangladesh, whose sweatshops supply top UK fashion brands, the vast majority of garment workers are women and they are disproportionately subjected to verbal and physical abuse, as well as typically earning less than male workers.

You can take a stand for the rights of women workers in Bangladesh by joining our call for government regulation of the global fashion industry. Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops is only as strong as its supporters - that's why we need your backing as well. Sign up here.

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War on Want launches student photo award

19 November 2009, Latest news

The Document photo award will honour the nation's top student photographers

War on Want has teamed up with key industry professionals and graphic designers to launch Document, a student photography award focusing on global poverty issues. The award, which is currently accepting submissions, asks student from across the UK to depict poverty through landscapes, still lifes or a series of portraits.

Winners will be selected by an expert panel which includes Roger Tooth, head of photography for The Guardian, Stephen Ledger Lomas, photographic director of Dazed & Confused magazine and Lauren Heinz, Editor Foto 8 Magazine. Chairing the panel will be Conrad Tracey from Arts University College at Bournemouth.

All of the shortlisted entries will be exhibited at a central London viewing on 21 - 28 January, with additional dates to be scheduled for Nottingham and Bournemouth.

The award seeks photographic representations of poverty, with a focus on the financial crisis and its impact worldwide. Students are encouraged to uncover the cross-border integration that defines our current economic system, where the decisions taken in the City of London and Wall Street have far-reaching consequences for communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For more information on the award, including on how to enter, visit Document's dedicated website.

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Swap-a-rama razzmatazz!

18 November 2009, Previous events

Shoreditch revellers danced the night away at a Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops themed swap-a-rama at Favela Chic in London.

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Guilt-free shopping at War on Want

15 November 2009, Latest news

We face an impossible choice every Christmas. Either pay a small fortune for ethically produced gifts, or shop at high street chains that exploit workers.

Now there's an alternative. At War on Want's online shop you can buy great gifts without paying through the nose. Our signature item this year is our brand new Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops tops. Stylish and affordable, these trendy t-shirts for men and women are a great gift for those friends and family members with a political conscience. But they're selling fast, so make sure to pick one up before it's too late.

As always, we have a range of other gifts on offer, including our always in demand line of Christmas cards. This year's selection includes our ever popular Palestine card, which depicts the Three Wise Men tunnelling under the Separation Wall to reach Bethlehem. We also have available our full range of stocking-stuffers, from wool hats to canvas bags, travel card holders to bottle openers.

If you want to buy a truly unique present, then one of our alternative gifts. For just £10 you can help promote peace in Palestine. Or for £20 you can support a grassroots organisation fighting to improve working conditions in South Africa. Check out our full list of gifts here.

All of these gifts go towards our work fighting poverty in partnership with groups on the ground across the developing world.

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Your words ruin Primark’s big day

11 November 2009, Previous events

This morning, we were outside Primark's new store in North London demanding that the retailer end its exploitation of workers overseas.

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Don't let a backlash knock out Tobin tax

09 November 2009, Comment is Free

Gordon Brown has added to the momentum pushing for a tax on global financial transactions. But the battle is far from won

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Primark’s dirty laundry

09 November 2009, Latest news

Things are looking good for Primark. The UK's top retailer announced £2.3 billion in annual sales, and is opening new stores across the UK - and is growing in Europe as well.

How has Primark managed to prosper during the economic meltdown? The answer is simple - and alarming. The company, like many other retailers, cuts down production costs by sourcing its clothing from sweatshop labour overseas. We want them to know that this is unacceptable - and that we demand it end now.

This Thursday we'll be at Wood Green for the opening of Primark's latest store, staging a protest against the company's exploitative labour practices. We'll be outside the store with a washing line full of dirty laundry to remind Primark how their unethical practices harm workers around the world.

But we'll need a big turnout to make sure our message is heard loud and clear.

If you're in London this Thursday, please do join us in letting Primark know that we find their labour practice unconscionable. And if you can't make it to the rally, take a moment to let Primark know exactly how you feel by writing a short message, which we'll display at the rally.

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United in struggle

09 November 2009, Latest news

On 24-25 October 2009, War on Want partner the Alternative Information Centre (AIC) and the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI) held a two-day conference in Bethlehem called ‘United in Struggle against Israeli Colonialism, Occupation and Racism'. War on Want volunteer Sirine Rached attended the conference and reports back on its findings and impact on future strategies.

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New London store faces Primark storm

09 November 2009, Press releases

NEWS PEG: Thursday, 12 November 2009 Primark opens its new London store

‘7p an hour sweatshop' factories spark protest
PICTURE/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY

WHAT?
As Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer launches a new London store, campaigners hang out Primark's "dirty washing" in public with a clothes line which cites poverty wages for its garment workers

WHY?
The charity War on Want says Bangladeshi workers making Primark clothes earn as little as 7p an hour

WHEN?
9.00 am GMT, Thursday 12 November 2009

WHERE?
Unit 57, The Mall, Wood Green Shopping City, High Road, London N22 6YQ


As Primark's new London store opens Thursday (12 November), anti-poverty campaigners will hang out the retailer's "dirty washing" in public with a clothes line that cites workers making its clothes for as little as 7p an hour.

The charity War on Want will stage a demonstration amid the store launch days after Primark announced a massive 20 per cent jump in sales to £2.3 billion for the year to 12 September and profits up 8 per cent to £252 million. It will compare Primark's growth with declining living standards among garment workers on poverty wages for up to 80-hour weeks in three Bangladeshi factories. The charity will also contrast the Wood Green store's 75,000 square feet on two floors with the tiny one-room slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members.

War on Want campaigner Seb Klier said: ""Primark has just reported huge sales and profits. But for many Bangladeshis producing its clothes their grim living standards are falling even lower as costs rise. It is high time Gordon Brown introduced regulation to stop this abuse."

The charity is targeting the store opening in north London to step up the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.


NOTE TO EDITORS

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities. Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid. Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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G20 counter-conferences look for a way forward

06 November 2009, Previous events

On 7 November, as ministers from the richest 20 countries in the world met in St Andrews to discuss the financial crisis, Put People First campaigners including War on Want staged two counter-conferences in London and St Andrews itself.

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Primark soars, but at what cost?

05 November 2009, Comment is Free

The economic downturn is clearly good news for the retailer. Maybe now it can afford to turn its ethical pledges into reality

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‘G20 heads for jobs, climate disaster’

05 November 2009, Press releases

NEWS PEGS

Friday-Saturday, 6-7 November 2009

G20 finance ministers hold talks at St Andrews in Scotland

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Coalition representing over 10 million people, Put People First, including War on Want, other anti-poverty organisations, trade unions and development, environmental and faith groups, stages G20 counter conferences in London and St Andrews


Ministers warned of huge economic losses

British chancellor Alistair Darling and finance ministers from the world's leading economies are today accused of sticking to policies which threaten higher unemployment and climate chaos.

The anti-poverty charity War on Want says the ministers' talks in the Scottish town of St Andrews tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday will spell disaster if they maintain the same approach and policies that sparked the global economic crisis.

John Hilary, the charity's executive director, will propose alternative policies at a London counter conference on Saturday with speakers including Danish ex-prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, MP Jon Cruddas and Green party leader Caroline Lucas.

The conference has been organised by a coalition representing more than 10 million people, Put People First, including War on Want, other anti-poverty organisations, trade unions and development, environmental and faith groups.

The International Labour Organisation estimates this year will end with 239 million jobless people worldwide - up a third compared to the 2007 level - with youth unemployment rising by up to 18 million to 90 million.

War on Want calls for a crackdown on tax havens. Britain loses an estimated £100 billion a year in tax dodges - enough to avoid feared health service cuts. And unpaid tax costs the developing world £250 billion a year.

The charity, with Put People First, is also demanding greater investment in public services, new jobs through a green global economy and steep emission cuts for developed nations at the UN summit in Copenhagen next month.

Mr Hilary said: "The G20 finance ministers have failed to learn the lessons from the financial crisis. Instead, they are merely tweaking a system which continues to favour the rich at the expense of the poor. We need a radical response from the G20 - not more of the same."

Protestors from Put People First will march in St Andrews on Saturday to demand ministers adopt policies which prioritise people's needs over corporate greed.

NOTES TO EDITORS
  • The Put People First conference in London will take place from 10.00 am-5.30 pm on Saturday at Central Hall, Storey's Gate, Westminster, SW1H 9NH.
  • Campaigners from the coalition will stage a beach rally and picture opportunity on Saturday at St Andrews to show ministers' heads in the sand over the global economic crisis. The event will take place at 11.15 am at West Sands.
  • Activists will march at 12.30 pm from the beach to the university.
  • The alliance will hold a conference at the university from 1.30-6.00 pm. Speakers will include Kevin Dunion, rector of St Andrews University, Colin Hines, director of Finance for the Future and co-author of The Green New Deal, and Ugandan development campaigner Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. The event will take place at St Andrews Students' Association, St Mary's Place, St Andrews KY16 9UZ.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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New Primark store attacked on 'sweatshops'

05 November 2009, Press releases

NEWS PEG: Friday, 6 November 2009 Primark opens big new store in Cambridge


7p an hour protest targets Cambridge opening

Primark today came under fire for exploiting garment workers as Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer prepared to open its new Cambridge store.

This criticism, from anti-poverty charity War on Want, came in advance of the store's Burleigh Street launch tomorrow (Friday, 6 November). The charity unleashed its broadside amid Primark's announcement that the retailer made operating profits of £252 million in the year to 12 September - up 8 per cent - with sales 20 per cent higher at £2.3 billion.

War on Want claimed employees in three Bangladeshi factories toiled up to 80-hour weeks for as little as 7p an hour. It contrasts the three-floor Cambridge store's 54,000 square feet of space with the tiny one-room 100 square feet slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

War on Want says Primark is cashing in on cheap fashion at the expense of garment workers by opening the Cambridge store and another next week at London's Wood Green in the run-up to Christmas. In addition, the retailer has earmarked a site for a new Edinburgh branch 30 per cent bigger than its original location. It is also reported to plan a massive store in a huge £675 million extension to a Cardiff shopping centre.

But while Primark stores climb towards the 200 mark in six countries, the charity warns that rising food prices are deepening poverty for its Bangladeshi garment workers.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "Primark is booming in the recession by keeping clothes prices so low at a terrible cost to its garment workers' living standards. Letting the retailers police themselves has failed to ensure workers decent pay and conditions. Now Gordon Brown must act to stop this abuse."

War on Want is making the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the charity's Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

The push is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew. Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Safia Minney, director of fair trade fashion company People Tree, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

People can add their names on the campaign's website at www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org

NOTE TO EDITORS

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities. Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid. Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

 

 

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Who pays for Primark’s high profits?

05 November 2009, Latest news

» Original article in Liberal Conspiracy

British companies have been battered by the financial crisis. Yet Primark, one of Britain's largest retailers, continues to thrive. Fuelled by the retailer's impressive sales growth of 7%, AB Foods, the group which owns Primark, yesterday announced £655 million in yearly earnings. The future looks bright for the high street chain.

How is it that Primark has been able to post lucrative profits while the rest of the country plunges deeper into recession?

The answer lies in its business dealings with overseas suppliers. To obtain cheap garments as cheaply as possible for sale in the UK, companies like Primark squeeze suppliers in developing countries. The net result of this practice, however, is a vicious race to the bottom in which overseas workers are hit the hardest.

The conditions facing men and women in factories making clothes for top high street brands are simply scandalous. According to original research carried out by War on Want, garment workers in sweatshops across Bangladesh earn as little as 7p an hour and face up to 80-hour weeks. Abuse at the hands of factory owners is endemic, with women workers particularly at risk.

The British public is well aware of these abuses, thanks to widespread media coverage and high-profile exposés of the industry. But while it's widely agreed that sweatshops must be put to an end, the best approach for doing so has not always been clear.

Boycotts carry the risk of shutting down factories which, in spite of their draconian conditions, are a crucial source of employment. These jobs are backbreaking and offer paltry wages, but they're better than having no work at all.

At the same time, relying on companies to regulate themselves isn't working. By signing up to voluntary codes of conduct, some companies have pledged to improve conditions in their supply chains. Such measures, however, are unenforceable. Clothing companies continue to source from sweatshops around the globe, skirting their own rules for the sake of their profits.

If these tactics have largely failed, what is the most effective way to fight sweatshop exploitation?

The new Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign offers members of the public an alternative solution - firm government regulation of the fashion industry. Endorsed already by thousands of people, the campaign demands the UK government guarantee workers supplying UK companies basic rights, like a living wage and the right to join a trade union.

If the past is any guide, Primark's announcement of record-breaking profits will not cause it to rethink its business practices. Real and lasting change in the garment industry can only be achieved through strong government intervention, which in turn must come from public pressure.

UK citizens have long made it clear that they desire a world without sweatshops. Now it's up to us to make that happen.


Jesse Lerner-Kinglake is Communications Officer for War on Want

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